Meteor Or...? Fireball Lights Up New England Skies

Space Imagery
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 - 9:59AM

Just because NASA keeps tabs on asteroids like Oumuamua (and that one killer rock that keeps swinging by Earth every couple decades) doesn't mean space can't surprise us with a big fireball every now and then. That was the case yesterday when a "golf ball-sized" meteor streaked across the New England sky, about 10 to 25 miles up and travelling at a speed of around 10 to 30 miles per second.

An image of the meteor was captured by the Mount Agamenticus Conservation Program in Maine, but dozens of other photos quickly appeared on social media:

The meteor was spotted over New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts around 6 PM, and was described as being either green or blue. Most meteors are made of iron and nickel, and hitting the atmosphere at high speeds can cause the nickel to heat up and glow, which creates greenish light—spooky, but not uncommon. The Leonid meteor shower has green-looking meteors for the same reason.

The meteor that flew over New England last night was relatively small and harmless, but a meteoroid doesn't need to hit the Earth to cause huge damage. The Chelyabinsk meteorite that hit Russia in 2013 was about ten metric tons and exploded before hitting the ground, creating an airburst that caused shockwaves and even a sonic boom. The amount of energy released was equivalent to a small atomic bomb and caused over 1,100 injuries, mostly from broken windows.

If you're looking to get a glimpse of some more meteors, keep an eye out for the Quadrantids on January 3rd and 4th this coming year!